But before that, we had a free hearty breakfast provided by the hotel before we embarked our journey. It was such a lovely breakfast in the morning.
Grand Hotel Front Gate
This is Grand Hotel (圓山大飯店) where our founding father, late Mr Lee Kuan Yew visited and stayed 24 times since 1974. Many young generations are ignorant about the history of Grand Hotel and the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew's frequent visits.Grand Hotel was established in May 1952 and the main building was completed on October 10, 1973. It is owned by the Duen-Mou Foundation of Taiwan, a non-profit organization, and has played host to many foreign dignitaries including late Mr Lee Kuan Yew who have visited Taipei.
Lush flowers gardenGrand Hotel has a history of up and down according to the fengshui as it sits on the mountainside. In June 1995 a fire broke out on the roof during renovation work, and a lack of ladders and high pressure pumps allowed the fire to destroy the roof and Presidential Suite, leaving three upper floors heavily damaged by water. The hotel was forced to cut back operations for almost two years, and when the roof was rebuilt, the two dragon heads on the ends of the roof ridge were rotated 180 degrees to point inwards. Traditionally a symbol of rain and water, the dragons were enlisted to provide protection against fires in the future. It would be a real shame if the Grand cannot return to its former years of grandeur and splendour. There is a lot of history in and around the hotel, from its distinguished registry of guests to its tie-ins with shrines and dragons and legends like the two underground escape routes tunnelled into the mountainside and leading to nearby parks.
Grand Hotel (圓山大飯店) with two Stone-lionsThere are the stone lions - Chi Lin (seen in the pic above) outside near the archway entrance to the hotel were donated by the family of Lin Ben-yuan, builder of the Lin Family Gardens in Banqiao, under coercion from the Japanese. Interior rooms in the main building are small, ageing and have no windows. The pair of stone lions on the plaza dated back to a century ago, when a Shinto temple was built on the present hotel site. As demanded by the Japanese colonial officials in charge, the prestigious Lin family of Banciao dedicated the lions to the Shinto temple. With powerful sculpted lines, the southern-style lions look sharp and alive despite the fact that they are smaller than the new ones under the hotel’s memorial archway.
Dragon Head seen (rooftop) with Flying Rafters & wooden bracketsThe flying rafters on roof edges of the hotel and the wooden brackets supporting crossbeams are an embodiment of historical Chinese culture. A set of sacred monsters squat on the protruding rafters, while Shachihokos—curving beast-shaped ornaments made of tiles— rest on the main ridge and the vertical ridge of the roof below. The powerfully constructed wooden brackets are presented as such splendid, refined architectural pieces of art that many are in awe of their beauty.
Late Mr Lee, FM Frederick Chien & his wife
Late Mr Lee was the hotel's most frequented guest. This picture (above) is Foreign Minister Frederick Chien (left from Mr Lee) and his wife Mdm Chiang (right seen shaking hands) welcoming our Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew in 1974 at the Grand Hotel.
Left: Elizabeth Tayler (1932-2011)
The distinguished visitors have been the Shah of Iran and the kings of Jordan and Thailand, Elizabeth Taylor (1932-2011) and Singapore’s founding father, late Lee Kuan Yew (1923-2015), who (Mr Lee) had stayed at the hotel at least 24 times and once was so impressed with the level of service that he requested that the hotel butler to accompany him throughout his visit to Taiwan. Late Ms Elizabeth Taylor visited at Grand Hotel in Nov 1979 and was accompanied by Mrs Soong and her two secretaries on a tour of Taiwan including Sun Moon Lake. She also went on a boat cruise to a temple on an island in the lake.
Inside Main Entrance looking out Front Gate
Grand Hotel's Main EntranceThe glass doors serving as the gate of the hotel are Rectangle in shape and elegant in style. Upon a closer look, six archaic Chinese characters meaning “long live the Republic of China” are framed on the glass. This not only demonstrates the creativity of the designer, but indicates the historical background of the hotel.
Century Old Golden Dragon in front of the Restaurant
The Century Old Golden Dragon (above) outside the Golden Dragon Restaurant (completed on 29th May 2014) is also reputed to be from the Japanese era. The Golden Dragon Pavilion and Golden Dragon Restaurant opened in 1956. The bronze dragon, which spurt water from the mouth, was merely made as basic front-gate decorations for the Japanese Shinto. When the Shinto was demolished for building a new hotel, construction officials decided to keep the dragon in the original form and display in front of the Golden Dragon Restaurant. The dragon was further gilded with 24K gold during a second round of refurbishment in 1987. This dragon is particularly special because it is three-claws , unlike thoes four or five-claws dragons were found in traditional Chinese art.
Century Old Golden Dragon Spurt water from its mouthDuring the WWII, the brass dragon in the Lung-Shan Park was melted to build cannons. Although the Taiwan Shrine was ruined in the war, its brass dragon survived miraculously. This hundred-year old brass dragon was henceforth known to world-wide. In 1952, late Mdm Soong Mei-ling, wife of Foreign Minister Frederick Chiang, selected the den of dragon tail to build the Grand Hotel, the 1st world-class hotel in Taiwan in order to greet the state VIPs. The Grand Hotel becomes a Holy Land for Int'l tourists. Most people came to worship the brass dragon, the Grand Hotel plated the brass dragon with gold in 1987. The guest of the hotel, especially from Japan, the geomancy of the Grand Hotel is blessed and they come to worship the golden dragon praying that their dreams may come true.
The Grand Hotel is said to have more than 200,000 sculptures of dragons scattered throughout its premises, from the ridge line on its roof through its fourteen floors of guest rooms and function rooms, out through the magnificent lobby and down the hill to the gate at the entrance to the hotel grounds. Originally built by Chiang Kai-shek (above pic) as a showcase to present Taiwan’s best face to visiting foreign dignitaries as he felt Taipei had no proper hotels for hosting foreign dignitaries.
Grand Hotel's Lobby
Flower-shaped caisson ceiling@hotel lobbyA plum flower-shaped caisson ceiling rests on top of the hotel lobby. The décor of the ceiling contains various blessings. Five golden dragons’ surrounding a pearl indicates the arrival of five different types of luck. “Attaining eminence step by step” is symbolized by “23”—the total number of dragons, as “three” is a homonym for “rising” in Chinese. With 16 phoenixes and one large plum blossom, the ceiling further signifies “making profits continually,” a phrase pronounced the same way as “16 plus a flower” in Mandarin. Traditionally, the caisson ceiling is a symbol of prosperity, believed to be heralded by dragons and phoenixes.
Grand Hotel's Bar & Cafe
Dragons on wall StructureThe Grand Hotel features traditional palace-style architecture, bright red and gold decorations, stately archways and a brilliant yellow tiled roof. With a history dating back to the early 1950s and beyond, the Grand Hotel has played host to leading government figures from around the world.
Grand Hotel Souvenir Shop
Beside this, there is a Grand Hotel Souvenir shop which was opened in August 2012 facing the staircase leading to the Century Old Golden Dragon.
Closeup: Stone Tablet (Shigandang)At the foot of the stone steps that lead to the memorial archway, four powerful, free-flowing Chinese characters “Jian Tan Sheng Ji” in the calligraphic cursive style are chiseled on a large stone tablet. They are the works of much-revered politician Yu You-ren, and are believed to mean “Yuanshan is a sacred land” upon verifications from various resources. Because of this sculpted statement, the stone tablet has contributed the elegance and popularity of Yuanshan over the last century.
Now in 2016, the Grand Hotel has been in operation in 64 years.